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  CSPAN    U.S. Senate    News/Business.  

    July 22, 2011
    9:00 - 12:00pm EDT  

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h.r. 2560, that's the house debt and deficit reduction plan, also known as the cut, cap and balance bill. that measure passed the house earlier this week. we expect a procedural vote to table or kill the bill around 10 a.m. eastern here in the senate. we will take you live to the senate floor now here on c-span2. on c-span3 will have president obama participate in a town hall meeting. on the ongoing interest to find a balanced approach to deficit reduction. that lie from college park on our companion network, c-span3. now live to the senate here on c-span2. eternal spirit, the fountain ofy blessing, hallowed be your name. in these tempestuous times, givr lawmakers strong minds, great h,
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and true faith. make them people whom the lust e does not kill or the spoils of office cannot buy. may they be people of honor who live above the fog in public duty and in private thinking. lord, empower them to use their gifts to magnify your name. may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. our souls silently wait for you, oh god, for from you alone comes salvation.
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you alone are this nation's rock and sure defense. we pray in your great name. amen. the presiding officer: please e in reciting the pledge of al legiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clel read a communication to the sen. the clerk: washington d.c.,
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july 22, 2011. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable richard blumenthal, a senator from the state of connecticut, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: daniel k. inouye, president pro tempore. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: following leader remarks, the senate will resume consideration the motion to proceed to the bill h.r. 2560. the time until 10:00 a.m. will be equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees. at 10:00 a.m. i will be recognized to make a motion to table the motion to proceed. therefore, senators should expect a roll call vote at approximately 10:00 a.m. to accommodate senators on both sides on what will take a little longer than usual. this, i say to you, mr. president, and to everyone at the sound of my voice, this is an effort to move this piece of legislation off the floor. it's interfering with the negotiations between the white house and the house of representatives, and it is without merit, this legislation.
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this is a motion to table. it is a vote on this bill. and we on this side of the aisle are going to look at every vote cast. we feel comfortable where we are on this issue, and i would suggest to my republican friends they should look to where they are on this issue. this is a very, very bad piece of legislation. anyone voting for it, i think will have to respond in many different ways to the people of their state. h.r. 2553 is at the desk due for a second reading. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: h.r. 2553, an act to amend the internal revenue code of 1986 to extend the funding and expenditure authority of the airport and airway trust fund, and so forth and for other purposes. mr. reid: mr. president, i object to any further proceedings at this time on this bill. the presiding officer: the objection is heard. it will be placed on the
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calendar. mr. reid: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that two fellows in senator bingaman's office, charlene haylene and sandra wilkness be granted floor privileges during the consideration of the bill. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: in about an hour we'll vote on the so-called cut, cap, and balance legislation. as i said before, in fact just a few minutes ago, this is one of the worst pieces of legislation to ever be placed on the floor of the united states senate. it violates the spirit of our constitution and certainly what we're trying to accomplish here in washington. and we as a senate refuse to waste even one more day on this piece of legislation. we have 11 days left until the united states simply stops paying its bills. and, frankly, we've wasted too much time already on this. the united states house of representatives needs to know
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this legislation has expired. it's gone. republicans wanted to vote on their radical plan to kill medicare and social security before they would consider helping democrats avert this crisis n. an hour they'll get this chance. at least one republican senator went toefr a large gathering in the house of representatives, i'm told, and said we're going to get at least 60 votes on this. please, mr. president, their extreme plan would within 25 years cut in half every federal benefit on the books including social security, medicare, medicaid, military pay, veterans benefits and much more. meanwhile it would erect constitutional amendments for special interests, the millionaires and billionaires who are able to buy those yachts and corporate jets for which they get tax benefits. republicans demand we pass this radical proposal before they
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even consider cooperating with democrats to avert a crisis that would rock the globe. they are demanding the death of medicare and social security as its ransom. we all know their failed prescription will fail here in the united states senate. they do not have the votes to pass a plan that would pwalt budget on the -- balance the budget on the backs of seniors and middle-class families. and so we must move on, mr. president. i want to be very, very clear. there is simply no more time to waste debating and voting on measures that have no hopes of becoming law. we have no more time to waste playing partisan games. as the saying goes, indecision becomes decision with time. our time is running out before this gridlock, this refusal by the other side to move an inch toward compromise becomes a
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decision to default on our debt. the markets are already reacting to our inaction. ever responsible voice, including those of my republican colleagues, many of them at least, warned much worse is to come if we don't take action and take it soon. that's a risk we can't afford to take. i ask my republican colleagues again to join democrats in seeking common ground. the american people have demanded it of us. overwhelmingly they have said the national default is a serious problem and that is an understatement and both parties of congress must meet in the middle. we all know, mr. president, there are talks going on between president obama and speaker boehner. i wish them well. we await their efforts. i'm told there will be revenue measures in that. if that's the case, we know constitutionally the matter must start in the house of representatives. i say to both the president and to the speaker here on the
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senate floor, representing my democrats, and i'm confident many republicans, be very careful. show a lot of caution as this negotiation goes forward because any arrangement must be fair to all america, not just the wealthy. would the chair announce proceedings for this morning. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to h.r. 2560, which the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed to the consideration of h.r. 2560, an act to cut, cap, and balance the federal budget. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the time until 10:00 a.m. shall be equally divided between the two leaders or their designees. the senator from north dakota.
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mr. conrad: mr. president, in about an hour we are going to vote on a package that was sent this body by the house of representatives. let me first comment on the context within which we consider this legislation. i think it's very important to remind our colleagues and remind citizens across the country who are perhaps watching and listening that our country is borrowing more than 40 cents of every dollar that we spend. that is unsustainable. it cannot be continued for long. mr. president, i think all of us know that the circumstance that we are in is extraordinarily serious. here's what the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff told us just a year ago. our national debt is our biggest national security threat. mr. president, i believe that that's the case.
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our gross debt now is approaching 100% of the gross domestic product of the united states. we've not seen a debt that high since after world war ii. mr. president, it is extraordinarily important that we take on this debt threat. it is extraordinarily important for our country's future economic well-being that we change course. mr. president, the legislation that has been sent to us by the house is one of the most ill considered, ill-conceived, internally inconsistent pieces of legislation that i have seen in my 25 years here in the united states senate. it has all the earmarks of something that was hastily thrown together, really pieced it together. and this legislation includes an amendment to the constitution of
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the united states. mr. president, we are better than this. the congress is better than this. certainly the country is better than this. let me just be brief. the fundamental problems with the balanced budget amendment are as follows: one, it restricts the ability to respond to economic downturns, having all the potential to make an economic downturn even more serious. it uses social security funds to calculate balance and subjects that important program to the same cuts as other federal spending, even know it is funded separately. mr. president, it shifts the ultimate decisions on budgeting in this country to unelected judges and unaccountable judges. finally, it provides for state ratification process that could
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take years to complete. we need a long-term debt resolution now, not in the sweet by-and-by. mr. president, the proposal before us has all of the potential to turn a recession into a depression. why do i say that? because, mr. president, it would prevent congress from taking urgent action to provide lift to the economy in the midst of a severe economic downturn. here's what norman ornstein, a distinguished scholar at the american enterprise institute said about it, "few ideas are more is he ductive on the -- stkubgtive on the service than a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. nearly all of our states have budget requires. when the economy slows states are forced to slash spending at just the wrong time, providing a
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fiscal drag when what is needed it countercyclical policy to stimulate the economy. the fiscal drag from the states in 2009 and 2010 was barely countered by the federal stimulus plan. that meant the federal stimulus provided was nowhere near what was needed but far better than doing nothing. now imagine that scenario with a federal drag instead. mr. president, "the washington post" editorialized, worse yet, the latest version of the balanced budget amendment would impose an absolute cap on spending as a share of the economy. it would prevent federal expenditures from exceeding 18% of the gross domestic product in any year. most unfortunately, the amendment lacks a clause letting the government exceed that limit to strengthen a struggling economy. mr. president, that has all of the potential to turn a recession into a depression.
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two of this country's most distinguished economists: alan blinder, former vice chairman of the federal reserve; and mark zandi former consultant advisor to this senator mccain evaluated the response to the last downturn. their conclusion: absent that federal response, we would have had great depression 2.0. mr. president, the legislation before us would have prevented that federal response. they call this legislation cut, cap, and balance. they misnamed it. they should have called it cut, cap, and kill medicare. because that's precisely what it would do. mr. president, why do i say that? because when i referred earlier to the internal -- inconsistency of this legislation, this is what i was referring to: they have two different spending
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caps in the lilings befor in the us. in one part of the legislation, they say the spending cap would take spendin spending from 24.1f g.d.p. to 19.9%. that's in one part of the bill before us. in another part of the bill -- constitutional amendment -- they say, the spending cap would be 18% of g.d.p. so i don't know who cooked this up, but you'd think they'd have at least gotten on the same page as to what is the limitation on spending. what does it mean if you have a balanced budget amendment with a cap of 18% of g.d.p.? well, mr. president, here's what it means. and, by the way, the constitutional provision would certainly trump the conflicting
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provision that's in this legislation. so the cap would not be 19% of g.d.p. the cap would b would not be 19. what would it be? it would be 18% of g.d.p. if you fund just social security, defense, and other nonhealth spending and interest on the debt, you're at 18% of g.d.p. there's not a dime left for medicare. there's not a dime left for medicaid. is that really what they intended? it must be, because that's what it says. so medicare is finished. medicaid is finished. anybody that votes for this better understand what they're
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voting to do. mr. president, here is a former top economic advisor to president reagan. here's what he said about the amendment that is before us: "in short, this is quite possibly the stupidest constitutional amendment i think i have ever seen. it looks like it was drafted by a couple of interns on the back of a napkin. every senator cosponsoring this legislation should be ashamed of themselves." mr. president, that's a former top economic advisor to ronald reagan. i've been here 25 years. i don't think i have ever seen a piece of legislation more unprofessionally constructed than the legislation before us. but those aren't the only problems. when they said -- they titled
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this "cut, cap, and balance," they could have also called it preserve, protect, and defend tax havens and tax shelters, because that's the other consequence of this legislation. why do i say that? because it would take a two-thirds vote to increase revenue -- two-thirds vote. that means attempts to shut down these offshore tax havens, these abusive tax shelters, because they'd rave revenue, would take a two-thirds vote. now, what does that mean? well, here's a little building down in the cayman islands i've talked about many times, a little five-story building, claims to be home to 18,857 companies. they all claim they're doing business out of this little building. i have sea aid this is the most efficient -- i've said this is the most efficient building in the world. quite remarkable. 18,857 companies are doing the business out of this little
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five-story building. and i'm told there are not many people coming and going from this building during the day. are 18,000 companies really doing their business -- they call this headquarters. that really their headquarters? we all know it's not their headquarters. we all know what's going on. it's not business. it's monkey business. what they're doing down there is avoiding the taxes that all the rest of us pay. and this amendment would protect this scheme. you want to protect this scheme, vote for this amendment. mr. president, how big is this scheme? well, here's what our own permanent subcommittee on investigations has told us: "experts have estimated that the total loss to the treasury from offshore tax evasion alone approaches $100 billion per
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year, including $40 billion to $70 billion from individuals and another $30 billion from corporations engaging in offshore tax evasion. abusive tax shelters add tens of billions of dollars more." mr. president, you want to lock in these abuses? you prefer to pay more in taxes yourself so that people can engage in these scams? vote for this amendment. vote for the legislation that's before us. vote for what is on the floor because you'll protect them forever more. mr. president, i end as i began. this is perhaps the most ill-conceived, ill-considered, internally inconsistent legislation that i have ever seen in my 25 years in the united states senate. i hope my colleagues have the wisdom to vote "no." i thank the chair and yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator indiana. mr. coats: mr. president, i
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just would like t the chamber to know that today marks the 88th birthday of one of the great members of this senate body, a true american hero, former majority leader bob dole. and as i reflect on the extraordinary life he has led -- and i had the privilege of serving under him as a united states senator and working with him in the private sector getting to know he and his wife well -- i cannot help but note that the leadership that he provided in comparison to the lack of leadership that is being provided in this body now stands in great contrast. there is an absence of leadership here and a seriousness of purpose that bob dole would never have allowed, had he been majority leader. i say that because i come to the floor today greatly troubled by the remarks that were made here in this senate yesterday and again this morning by the majority leader regarding the
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bill that is before us. the issue here takes two tracks. one of which is the content of the amendment in the bill that is before us that was voted on by the house of representatives, passed by the house of representatives, and sent over for us to debate and pass here. we can disagree -- and i think there's been some misrepresentation of what this bill actually does. we can disagree about the contents of it, but we have an obligation and a responsibility to debate those contents and to put every member of this body on a position of saying "yea" or "nay" on amendments that might be offered to improve it or to dhaing ichange it or to modify d finally whether or not to support it or not support t that
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is vote on a motion to table. you know, thraw there are a couf definitions of "table. " more than a couple. but one of those is tabling -- getting to the table to negotiate something, just as the nfl players and owners are doing much more seriously and with much more consequences to the future of this country, what we ought to be doing. putting it on the table, debating it, and addressing it, expressing your support or nonsupport, defending it, characterizing, mischaracterizations -- that's what this body is about. it is the world's greatest deliberative body is deciding not to deliberate this bill at all. the second definition of "table" is taking it off the table so the majority leader has said, i'm not going to allow you to debate it. i'm not going to allow amendments. i'm not going to allow up-or-down votes so the american people know where we are. this is a vote to table so we don't even have the opportunity to debate it.
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now, it was the majority leader himself who said we're going to be in session every day until we get this thing settlemen settle. now he comes down here and says, i am neat going to waste one more day on this. senators who were told we're going to be here every day, we'll be here on so saturday, ad now says we can go home. what kind of leadership that? we don't know whether we're supposed to be here or not supposed to be here? what's happening with one of the most serious crises that we're facing, the country that is ever seen, particularly in the financial area, it is "the" most serious, except for maybe the great depression. and we're told, we don't even have time to debate this, this is a waste of time. i quote the unbelievable statements that have been made by the majority leader. this piece of legislation is
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about as weak and senseless as anything that is ever come on this senate floor? really? i could spend a half an hour talking about senseless legislation, egregious legislation, discriminatory legislation that is ham com haso this floor and debated and not just tabled. to characterize the serious efforts of the members of the house of representatives and the members of the senate, including some democrat members, of trying to fix this problem, to characterize that as senseless and wasteless, i'm not going to send one more day of time on this senseless legislation. i thought, on reflection, the majority leader would come here this morning and say, perhaps i overstated the problem. let me better explain where i think we are and where we need to go. but, no, he comes down and he doubles down this morning, doubles down and says, it's very, very bad piece of
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legislation, without merit, it gets in the way, gets in the way. talking about dealing with cutting spending that we know we can't afford, talk about putting some caps on it so we don't keep doing this in the future, so we have a path to fiscal responsibility, talking about a balanced budget so we live within our means? that's getting in the way? this body has failed its responsibility to be faithful to the constitution and faithful to the people of america. and, as a consequence of that, we're signature here saying, we're not even -- we're sitting here saying we're not even going to debate something that is brought forward with hundreds of thousands of hours of effort. maybe you don't like t maybe you don't agree with it. we will, stand up and say so -- well, stand up and say so and tell us what you want to do about it. the majority leader and his party has not brought one piece of legislation to this floor. the president has not offered
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one number, one proposal in writing that we can work with. we have not had the opportunity to debate for one minute anything that the other side has offered. and so we bring something forward and iter it's called a worthless piece of junk. is that what the american people sent us here to do? i came here to find a result, a result to the dire fiscal situation that our people are in. and the majority leader comes down here and says, we are not responding to the will of the people. where hayes been? what planet is he on? responding to the will of the people? they're sick and tired of government spending more money than it has. they're sick and tired of being told they're handing over to their children debts that are never going to be aibl able to e repaid. and we're told that we want to take this off the table so we can't even debate it? i woke up in the middle of the night so frustrated and so angry, after spending last evening saying i'm hopeful that we can come together and work
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something out. and the well get gets poisoned t evening by the majority leader and gets poisoned this morning. those of us who work our tails off are told this is a piece of junk. that's not what we came here to do. i i didn't come here to get mad. i came here to be senatorial and i've parntsly not done that. -- and i've apparently not done that. they're mooting in back rooms together -- they're meeting in back rooms together, signing letters to the president to ask him to step up. 32 democrats and 32 republicans. the president ignores that and does nothing until the very end and comes here to try to bail it out. look at me, i took care of everything while america is worried to death about the future. to say we haven't done anything but put forward a piece of
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worthless legislation is so worthless we're not going to allow us to talk about it or debate it, not allow amendments to take place, not give it the respect that it's due -- so you don't like it come down here and tell us why you don't like t and let us have a vote on why you don't like it. instead of saying take it off the table. i guess we're all getting frustrated. it's 100-something degrees heat index outside and i can understand some of us getting worked up about this thing but the future of america is at stake and this majority leader is not allowing to us deal with it. with that, i yield the floor. mr. johanns: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from nebraska. mr. johanns: mr. president, i stand here today as a cosponsor of the cut, cap, and balance legislation and as a supporter of that legislation. here's the insanity that has gripped not only this body, but
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all of washington. we are literally in a year where we will have the third year in a row of deficit over $1 trillion. in fact, current projections are that this annual deficit will set a record, a very dubious record, i might add, of $1.6 trillion-plus we were promised three years ago that if this enormous, gargantuan effort to force more spending into the economy with the stimulus plan were passed, that $1 trillion effort, it would put this country on a path to recovery. and it has done nothing except raise our debt and pass the
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problem on to our children and grandchildren. so after weeks and months of work, on an idea to rein in the spending and to come to grips with where we are at in the country, we are literally at a point where within minutes we will vote on a motion to table that effort, and we will be right back to where we are today. we will be right back to a situation where we will face trillion-dollar deficits. we will be right back to a situation where every economist in the world is telling the united states of america, the largest economy, that your spending is not sustainable. we will be right back to rating agencies looking at our government debt and saying you have not come up with a plan to rein this in, and so you are
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being targeted to be downgraded. but what we are really right back to is this: we have a government too big, we have too many promises that have been made where no one had any idea how they would be paid for. by the end of the year we will have a deficit of $15 trillion, which is significantly understated. in four more years, we will have a deficit, a debt of $20 trillion, which will still be significantly understated. and somehow there are members of this body that are arguing this is a better way, table cut, cap, and balance so we can return to where we are at today. is it any wonder that those of us who are concerned about this
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and concerned about the future of our children and grandchildren are coming to the floor and saying wait a minute, this is destroying our nation. mr. president, i rise today as i have many times over the last days to say support this effort. support cut, cap, and balance. i am pleased to be a cosponsor of this legislation, this very important legislation that has the potential to change the direction of what we're doing, and i am going to be one of the people that supports this legislation today in my vote. mr. president, with that, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota.
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mr. thune: mr. president, i want to echo the comments of my colleague from nebraska and my colleague from indiana, all of whom have come down here to express their support for the cut, cap, and balance approach to dealing with this debt crisis that we're facing today, and point out that it passed in the house of representatives a few nights ago. it had 234 votes, and it is the only plan out there. as my colleague from indiana has said, the president, the democrat leadership here in the senate has yet to produce a plan that will meaningfully deal with the greatest crisis that our country has faced in my service here in the united states congress. and that is this massive out-of-control debt that as the senator from nebraska pointed out could lead to much higher interest rates along the lines of whether we're seeing in some of our european countries, which would absolutely crush this economy. if we are serious about growing the economy and creating jobs,
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we have got to get federal spending under control. we need a smaller federal economy and a larger private economy. and what's been happening here since this president took office is we continue to grow government. we've added 35% to the debt, spending in increase by 24% nonnational security discretionary spending in the last two years at a time when inflation was 2% in the overall economy, federal spending has been growing at ten times the rate of inflation. the number of people who are receiving food stamps have gone up by 40%. the unemployment rate is up by 18%. there are 2.1 million more people unemployed today than there were when this president took office. the policies of this administration are not working when it comes to getting people back to work and getting spending and debt under control. i was listening with great interest to my colleague from north dakota who was down here on the floor earlier denouncing the whole idea of a balanced budget amendment like it was
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coming from some foreign planet, and talked about how ill-conceived and ill-considered and stupid this approach, this cut, cap, and balance approach, is. well, my observation about that, mr. president, is that the democrat failure to produce a budget in over 800 days is exhibit number one for why we need a balanced budget amendment. we ought to be embarrassed here in washington, d.c. we are not doing the people's work. we haven't passed a budget in over 800 days. and yet, the other side comes down here and denounces the idea of a balanced budget amendment, which 49 states have some form of balanced budget amendment that requires them every single year to balance their budget. my colleague from north dakota knows that. his state has it. my state of south dakota has it. it's a very straightforward concept that the people of this country clearly understand. now, if it takes issue with the
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way this particular balanced budget amendment is written, fine. come up with your own proposal. but don't suggest that having a constitutional amendment that requires this place to do something that it hasn't been doing for literally the last 25 or 30 years is a bad idea. what we've got today is dysfunctional. it is broken. it does not work fork the american people. it's -- it does not work for the american people. it's an embarrassment, mr. president. that's why we need something. we've got to put something on the books that will impose discipline on this congress to get spending and debt back under control and have us start doing something about the runaway debt that is putting a crushing burden on future generations of americans. if you don't like this balanced proposal, the cut, cap, and balance proposal is not prescriptive about this particular balanced budget amendment that many of us are cosponsors of, come up with another one. but let's put something in place that enshrines a responsibility and obligation and a requirement
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for us every single year to live within our means. we cannot continue to spend money that we don't have. and we have demonstrated year over year over year around here that we continue to add more and more and more to this debt. and under the president's proposal, budget proposal, that debt would have doubled in the next decade. that's why i think when his budget proposal was put on the floor of the united states senate it got zero votes. not a single democrat or a single republican voted in favor of what this president put forward in his budget submission earlier this year. since that time there's been absolute lack of leadership out of the white house. the president has been completely missing in action. the democrat leadership, as i said, has put forward no idea, no plan of their own. we have in front of us something that achieved majority support in the house of representatives a few nights ago, 234 members of the house of representatives voted for this. it is a serious, meaningful effort to cut spending now, to cap it in future years and to put in place a balanced budget amendment that is long overdue
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and which, frankly, if it passed 15 years ago in the united states senate, we would not be in the position that we are today. it failed by one single vote in the united states senate back in 1997, and i can only help but think, mr. president, how much better off we would be today in terms of the spending and debt situation that is facing this country had we gotten the necessary two-thirds vote back in 1997. but it's never too late to do the right thing, and we have an opportunity to do that today. and i think to hear our colleagues get up on the other side and belittle the effort that has been made by a lot of people around here who are trying to do something about a problem, a problem that is going to wreck this country if we don't fix it, is not befitting of this institution. and so i hope my colleagues today will allow us -- this is going to be a tabling motion now, i guess, instead of a debate about cut, cap, and balance because they've decided this isn't worthy of consideration on the floor of the united states senate. i think it's a terrible
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reflection on this institution that something is brought forward in good faith, a serious, meaningful effort to address spending and debt and to put this country back on a sustainable fiscal course, and we're not even going to have a debate on it. we're going to have a tabling motion in a few minutes. i hope my colleagues will defeat that tabling motion, allow us to continue to debate this and to get an up-or-down vote on something that i think is a correct approach and something that will meaningfully address the serious problem this country faces. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. leahy: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, unlike any republican in the house or the senate, i have voted for a balanced budget. we balanced the budget under president clinton. not only balanced the budget, started paying down the national debt. he was able to leave hundreds of billions of dollars in surplus to his successor who determined with republican votes to go to
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war in iraq and pay for the war with a tax cut. that's why we had to borrow the money from china and saudi arabia. not a single republican voted for a real balanced budget when they had a chance to. in fact, it passed in the senate only because vice president gore came and broke the tie. i was proud to vote for that balanced budget. not a gimmick, but a real balanced budget. we had to actually make tough choices. we did. we balanced it. we had a surplus. but when you talk about amending our nation's fundamental charter, the constitution of the united states, it's not something congress and the american people should feel forced to do in the face of a financial crisis. i take seriously my senatorial oath to support and defend the constitution. now i know that there are a lot of pressure groups demanding
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elected representatives sign pledges about what they will and will not do. the pledge i follow, the one i was honored to make at the beginning of this congress, is to uphold the constitution. that's what i intend to do as i represent the people of vermont. the house-passed bill, h.r. 2560, which the senate is now considering, claims to oppose a balanced budget of future congresses but it doesn't even contain the proposed constitutional amendment the supporters are seeking to adopt. nor did the bill pass with a two-thirds of the republican-controlled house voting in favor. that threshold is what is required, of course, to pass a constitutional amendment. the house vote was more than 50 votes short of that necessary number. the process by which this bill has been brought to the floor of the senate is an affront to the constitution that we're sworn to protect and defend. indeed, the house bill denies
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authority to meet the nation's obligations until congress passes a type of constitutional amendment that will actually make it more difficult to reduce our national debt. that kind of constitutional blackmail has no place in a democracy, no place in our laws. it's why the founders did not include a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget or prohibition against incurring debt in our constitution. they knew full well that would have been foolish and dangerous and self-defeating the nation they were seeking to establish. and i respect the wisdom of the founders to uphold the constitution which has served this nation so well for the last 223 years. let us not be so vain to think we know better than the founders what the constitution should prescribe. i reject the notion that for political reasons we need to rush consideration of an ill-conceived and evolving proposal for a constitutional
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amendment. i'm going to stand with the founders. i'll defend their work and our constitution and oppose a proposed series of constitutional amendments which incidentally hasn't even had a hearing. amend the constitution and we haven't even had a hearing on it. amendments to the constitution of the united states are permanent. they're not bills or resolutions that can be abandoned or fixed. they are not just a butcher sticker or a sound bite. each word matters to hundreds of millions of americans and future generations. i have never seen -- and i have been here 37 years -- i've never seen the solemn duty of protecting the constitution treated in such a cavalier manner. i wish that those who so o say they revere the constitution would show it the respect it deserves rather than treating it like a blog entry. i'm concerned how some in recent
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years have sought to impose their view by unilateral objection to compromise with minority obstruction. that has, at times, seemed to be the rule in the last few years. some have tried to undermine the legitimacy of president obama. filibusters and requirements for supermajorities have become routine. they've stymied congressional action on the part of the american people. this year should be a cautionary tale that convinces all americans that the risk of default and ideological impasse risks us. i need only recall the game of chicken earlier this year. i cannot help but think, we don't take the steps we should, we see our interest rates go up,
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we'll spend hundreds of billions of dollars in extra interest to china, which they can spend on infrastructure, they can spend on medical research, they can spend on education; we won't have it here in the united states. that's what the other side seems to want. we've seen the danger that irresponsible brinkmanship can promote. we should guard against it, building into the constitution a supermajority requirement for fiscal policy invites political blackmail and gridlock fl we've seen enough of that already. the source of our budgetary problems does not lie with the constitution. the constitution remains sound. the fault lies with those who will not work with the president to achieve results that will help the american people. it is lacking the political courage to do what is right. the last time we balanced a budget, not a single republican voted for that balanced budget. yet it created enormous
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surpluses. these proposed constitutional amendments would not cut a single dime from the debt or federal budget. rather than deal with our problems, some want to require that we deface the constitution with a measure that will by its own terms not be effective for five years, if it were to be adopted by two-thirds of both houses, the congress, and then ratified by three-fourths of the states. put that another way, at least three election cycles from now. we get our bumper stickers today but we kick the can down the road three election cycles. congress has the power now to take steps to avoid a government's default, get us on the path to rebalancing the budget. just as we did at the end of the clinton administration. this debate is a distraction from the hard work and hard choices, thchoices that immediae made.
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-- that need to be made. proposed amendments to the constitution are not just unnecessary, they're unwise, dangerous. in my view, the house-passed bill, the proposed amendment, demeans our constitution. never in our history have we amended the constitution, the work of our founders, impose budgetary restreekses or required supermajorities for passing legislation and now we're saying, let's do it, let's do it on a whim, let's do it without any hearings, let's do it because we can do it. well, all senators swear an oath to support and defend the constitution of the united states. that's our duty and responsibility. the constitution has allowed america to flourish, adapt to new challenges. we have amended it only 17 times since the bill of rights. our constitution deserves protection. i stand with the constitution today. i'm going to support the motion to table this ill-conceived legislation.
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mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from south carolina. mr. graham: how much time is left on our side? the presiding officer: five minutes. mr. graham: will you let me know when we have four minutes -- four minutes has expired? okay. someone else wants to talk. thank you, mr. president. in 2010 we had a major election in the country. the people who were elected in the house made promises to their constituents that if you sent me to congress i would try to change the system and deal with the fact that our nation is being run into the ground. we've got more debt than any future generation can ever pay off. 40 cents of every dollar we spend is borrowed money that if you are born today, you inherit about $48,000 of debt that we're spending more on social security payments than we collect in taxes; medicare is underfunded
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by $30-something trillion over the next 75 years. when you add up all employment programs, we're about $50 trillion short of the promises we've made. simply put, the house republicans who were elected during their campaigns said that i believe congress is out of control. we're going to become greece and i'd like to do something about t well, what did you expect what they got here? that they'd just say, okay, i've been taught the real way that the congress works and it's all okay? they did something about it. congratulations. anytime a person running for office fulfills the promises they made to their constituents, they've done, i think, a great service to democracy. cut, cap, and balance is a house effort to reduce spending, not ten years from now but this coming year. the problem with all these plans, is h very sincere probleo solve our budget problems in the
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past, gramm-rudman-hollings, between president clinton and the republicans, we achieved balance because we restricted the growth of entitlements, we restricted the growth of doctor and hospital payments, then we found out how much it was hurting doctors and hospitals. we began to nickle-and-dime doctors and hospitals and guess what? we stopped the program and we spent all of the surpluses. how do you get $14-plus trillion in debt? both parties are working together. this has been a bipartisan effort for about 30 years to run the country in the ground. i like to have a bipartisan effort to save the country from becoming greece and the only way you can do that is put ideas on the table. please to my democratic colleagues, let this debate go forward. if this is not worth debating, what would be? how do you save the country from becoming a debtor nation to the point that the next generation can't inherit the american dream?
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if you've got a better plan than cut, cap, and balance, please show it to us. we're willing to raise the debt limit but we're not going to do it without change the reason we got in debt venal the cut part reduces spending in 12 20* 12 by $1 00 billion. that will cause some pain, but it is doable. it is about 3% or 4% of the federal budget. i think most people at home think they can cut their budget 3 oregon 4% to -- 3% or 4% to save their feasm the cap an effort to wipe out the $1.4 trillion deficit. we're going become greece because we're going to have 100% of debt to g.d.p. in the next 20 years and $1-plus trillion deficit has to be changed and you can't do it overnight, but you should be able to do it over ten years. and the centerpiece of the house legislation is a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. what rational person really believes that republicans on this side and democrats on that side are ever going to find a way to fix our nation's problems
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without something new happening? the presiding officer: the senator has consumed four minutes. greenhouse gamr. graham: thank . after 40 years, the evidence is income tax the congress is broken. unless you change the system, fundamentally we're going to run our nation into the ground. so i support a balanced budget amendment. and here's the way it works. you got to get two-thirds in the senate and the house and three-fourths of the states have to ratify the balanced budget amendment. give the people of america a chance to have their say. let pass a balanced budget amendment to the constitution before we take the country and put it in a situation beyond redemption. and the only thing that's ever going to change in body, i'm sad to say, is some discipline imposed by the constitution itself. so i promise my colleagues to work with you where i can. but for the rest of my time in the senate -- and i don't know how long it's going to be -- i'm going to push a balanced budget amendment to the constitution
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because i don't trust the congress to do the hard things on their own. and when i say that i mean republicans, too. i yield. mr. manchin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia. mr. manchin: i rise today to speak of one of my greatest concerns, which is our nation's fiscal future. all of us, democrats and republicans, liberals, mod pratts, conservatives, face a choice about whether we'll seats moment before us -- we'll seize the moment before us or whether we will let this moment pass us by. clearly we face tough and difficult decisions. the decision we make as members of congress must be the right and responsible ones or our beloved nation and our hardworking families will needlessly suffer. in my state when i became governor, we faced challenging times, growing debts, tough
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budget choices and when i was first elected in november of 2004, the first thing i did afterwards is going to new york and talk to the rating agencies to find out what our gravest challenges were. we took those challenges dish went back home and we started making changes much the first thing did i was not blame anybody, any past administration, republican or democrat, or any other body. i was elected to fix things, not to put blame on people. and we started, as west virginians, not as democrats or republicans, about if if i fixe problems of our state. we didn't raise tax rates. people came to me and said, needed to do that. but i couldn't do that without trying to run our state more efficiently. the difference between what we did back home and what's happening here in washington is that we faced these choices together. we worked across party lines in a responsible way to address our fiscal challenges and in doing
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so we set our state on the right fiscal path, and without -- let me stress again, without sacrificing our moral responsibility or obligations to our seniors, our veterans, and the people most challenged in our society. and we did that without raising their tax rates. right now, because we made the right choices, our state is doing well. even in the most difficult, challenging "financial times," we've had record surpluses every year, six years in a row. for the last three years we're one of the few states in the nation that's got an increase in our rating from the standard & poor's, moody's and fitch's, the rating agencies. we did all this by living within our means. it is the reason why i'm such a strong supporter of a balanced budget amendment. it makes #u put your priorities based on what our values are in place. i truly believe that most americans support a balanced budget. every family that i know in my state and in this nation works
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off of some sort of a budget. nearly all of our state governments operate on a balanced budget amendment. i have never seen another place except here at our nation's capital, at our government in washington, that puts a budget together based on what they want to spend and not on how much they have to spend. but how we balance our budget is critically important. we have a moral responsibility and an obligation to our seniors, our families, and those who are the most fragile if our challenged society. that is why i cannot support the cut, cap, and balance plan passed in the harks which we will be voting on shortly. as a moderate democrat who is also a proud fiscal conservative, i agree with that bill's goal of a balanced budget. however, i cannot support the naught it takes. the cap cap plan does not reflect who we are or what we want to be os americans. i believe we need to cut but not so deeply without regard for our
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sarnsdz most vulnerable. i believe we need a cap on our spending but not at a level that could destroy the most important and vital programs that we have in society. i strongly believe that we need balanced -- a balanced budget amendment, but only one that takes a responsible and reasonable approach. clearly, we can all agree that it is time for us to make the difficult choice that will get our financial house in order, but we must do with the right plan and in a responsible manner that keeps our promises to our seniors, our veterans, and most importantly our children. and like it or not, neither democrats nor republicans can take l this enormous challenge on their own. this is not a political problem. this is an american problem, one that we all face. we should put politics aside and truly put our country first. earlier this week i saw that spirit at its finest on tuesday of this past week, when you, mr. president, along with 49 other of our colleagues, came
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together to listen to the gang of six who worked so hard based off of the president's fiscal debt commission. democrats and republicans -- the presiding officer: the senate will be in order. mr. manchin: democrats and republicans rolled out the first bipartisan proposal to address the nation's fiscal nightmare. at that meeting senators from both parties evenly split came together to listen to the hard work of the senators who spanned the ideological spectrum. at that moment the gang of six turned into what we affectionately call the mob of 50. and for the first time in these negotiations about our fiscal future, we had a bipartisan plan with momentum that was putting our country first. mr. president, we should not waste this moment. we must work together to cut spending and attack waste, fraud and abuse in every sector of our state and our country. every department, every program that needlessly costs our nation hundreds of billions of dollars every year, we must work
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together to reform our tax code not to raise tax rates but to make fairness a priority, and it's simply unfair that hardworking middle-class families in west virginia and all around this great country would pay more in taxes than a fortune 500 country like g.e. which didn't pay a cent or billionaires like warren buffet -- the presiding officer: the senator's time -- mr. manchin: democrats and republicans must work together to eliminate loopholes. and it's time to end the three wars that we have on which we're spending so much and the resources we can't afford and the lives we can't spare. mr. president, i say to all this is a time for us to come together as americans, to put our politics aside and do what is right for all of the future of this generation and for this country. thank you, i yield the floor. mr. reid: mr. president, i'm going to terminate my remarks very quickly. i want to say to my friend from west virginia, he's been a great addition to the united states senate. we, of course, know he replaced
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the great, legendary robert byrd. the people of west virginia should be happy with the peformance of joe manchin. his executive experience as governor of the state of west virginia which had an impeccable record of surpluses every year he was there. he's brought this talent to washington and has been very helpful to us all. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: five months ago president obama unveiled the only concrete statement he's made to date on our nation's debt crisis. continue a budget plan so preposterous, so unequal to the moment that it was rejected in the senate by a vote of 97-0. the president's response to this crisis was to pretend it didn't exist. two months later the president doubled down on his vision for a future of debt by demanding that congress raise the debt limit without any cuts to spending or a plan to rein it in.
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it was a total abdication of leadership, and it wasn't sustainable. so over the past several weeks the president has been doing his best impersonation of a fiscal moderate. he's talked about balance and left it to others to fill in the blanks. and here's what democra in congress have proposed as a solution: more spending and higher taxes as a solution to a debt crisis. just yesterday with the clock ticking, we heard reports of a volcanic eruption among democrats that we should solve this crisis by focusing on reducing washington spending. well, mr. president, the solution to this crisis is not complicated. if you're spending more money than you're taking in, you need to spend less money. this isn't rocket science. we could solve this problem this morning if democrats would let us vote on cut, cap, and balance and join us in backing this
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legislation that republicans support. but the first step in solving a problem is to admit you have one, and too many democrats refuse to admit that washington has a spending problem. that's why republicans have insisted that we focus on spending in this debate. the reason we've got a $14 trillion debt is because no matter how much money washington has, it always spends more. and the only twaoeu cure the problem -- and the only way to cure the problem is to stop enabling it. americans get it. i want to thank every american who has spoken out in favor of cut, cap, and balance. today the american people will know where we stand. a vote to table this bill is a vote to ignore this crisis even longer. a vote to get on this bill is a vote for getting our house in order. so i would urge my democratic colleagues one more time to reconsider their position, join us in support of a future we can afford.
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mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i say to my, all my friends, the new senators, welcome to the united states senate. this is a vote on the piece of legislation that was described by my friend, the chairman of the judiciary committee, about as well as anyone else. it is violative of our constitution. and this is a vote on this matter. and we're going to dispose of this legislation as it needs to be so president obama and the speaker can move forward on a matter that will have some revenue in it and send it over here and we can move forward to complete our work to make sure that we don't default on our debt. i, as a result of that conversation here, i move to table the motion to proceed to h.r. 2560 and ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. there is a sufficient second. the question is on the motion to
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table. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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vote: the presiding officer: are
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there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? seeing none, by a vote of 51-46, the motion to table the motion to proceed to consider h.r. 2560 is agreed to. the majority leader. mr. reid: i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed it a period of morning business until 2:00 p.m. today, senators permitted to speak during that time for up to ten minutes eve. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. reid: mr. president, there will be no roll call votes. the next roll call vote will be monday at approximately 5:30 p.m. i will give a scheduling update later after i confer with the republican leader. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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rye reid mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i ask consent that the call of the quorum be terminated. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. reid: mr. president, the senate just conducted a very important vote -- the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. mr. reid: thank you, mr. president. we just completed a very important vote. we've now demonstrated that the house republicans' cut, cap, and balance is over, done, it's dead. this was a necessary step and the step now allows the froes move forward. let me take a moment to discuss where we go from here. earlier this week the republican leader and i working to the on plan to avert insolvency. it was a fallback plan, a second choice for everyone including me. and certainly the republican leader, i'm sure. but earlier this week it looked like we a needed to go to that fallback plan as soon as possible. it looked earlier this week like the senate would have to originate the legislation
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perhaps as soon as today to avoid default. during the course of the week, circumstances have changed. the speaker of the house and the president have been working to reach agreement on a major deficit-reduction measure. i wish them both very well. that's very important to our country. the product on which they are working would address, i understand, both taxes and spending and under the constitution, the house of representatives must originate all revenue items. therefore, the path to avert default now runs first to the house of representatives. that's what the constitution demands. we in the senate must wait for them. therefore, the senate does not need to originate legislation today. earlier this week i had announced that the senate will need to be in session this weekend. bastebased on these changed circumstances, it is no longer the case. so at the close of business today, the senate will be out until monday. over the weekend, of course, there will be all kinds of meetings going on.
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i'll do my best to monitor closely the talks between the president and the speaker. i'll await work of their hope for sussments we'll be back here monday. the senate have at least one vote monday evening and the senate will wait anxiously for the house of representatives to send us their work product so we can later next week pass legislation that will prevent a default on our great country. mr. president, i'm going -- i'm going to consider moving other legislation in case that does not work in the house of representatives. i received a letter from senators today as to some suggestions that they have. there is a meeting going to take place at 11:00 today with the gang of six. the republican leader and i will be in on that meeting. and we're doing our very best to keep all senators, democrats and republicans, on top of what's going on. frankly, mr. president, in fairness to the republican leader and to me, a lot of what's going on we don't know.
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and so we're -- because of negotiations -- at least i'm speaking for myself; i can't speak for the republican leader -- but i haven't been in the date-to-day negotiations as to what's going on between the two. for the third time today, i say as sincerely as i can, i wish them well. it is extremely important we address the debt and it's exstrombly important that we understand we're no longer talking about credit ratings; we're talking about the default of our debt. i hope that this weekend brings good sense and common sense and vitality that the work being done between the white house and the house of representatives. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from arkansas. mr. pryor: mr. president, i understand that tbher a quorum call, so i would ask that that be dispen dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. pryor: mr. president, abraham lincoln once said, "i am a firm believer in the people. if given the truth, they can #-b depended upon to meet any national crisis. the great point is to bring them the real facts." i think that's where we are today. i think that we need to bring the people the facts about our nation's debt. the people in my state see through the games being played in washington. they want solutions, courage, and leadership, the kind that puts us on a more secure fiscal
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path for the future. mr. bryant of hot springs village, arkansas, writes, "we know we have to increase the debt ceiling, so let's get serious about finding a solution. why is this a problem for our politicians? the public expects responsible leadership, not the demagoguery we are getting from both sides of the aisle." that's the sentiment that i hear around my state, and i'm certain that many of you all are hearing this around the nation. so here are the facts. for over 230 years the united states government has honored its obligations, even in the face of the civil war, two world wars, and the depression, america has paled paid its bills. yet now we stand on the brink of tarnishing the full faith and credit of the united states. and we stand here because congress has failed to bring the american people the real facts. the easiest thing for a politician to do is say they're for lower taxes and for
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increased spending. this mind-set has running up a $4.2 trillion national debt much we now borrow 41 cents of every dollar we spend. now under this debt combined with the thee attribution playing out in the house and senate, the unthinkable could happen. the 80 million bills the federal government pays could come to a screeching halt. that means millions of seniors may not receive their social security checks in the mail. troops may not receive paychecks. medicare patients could be denied care. and the stock market could significantly drop. moreover, credit rating agencies have warned us that we will likely lose our triple-a credit rating without immediate afntle interest rates would permanently rise, piling on additional costs for families. the cost of owning a home, buying food, filling a gas station, send kids to college, buying a car will become even
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more expensive. there's one more real fact that i want to highlight. a default adds heavily to our debt. for every 1% increase in the interest rates we pay, it adds $1.3 trillion to the debt. it is no wonder the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff last summer said, "our national debt is our biggest national security threat." the gang of six offers an alternative, a comprehensive road map that allows us to tackle the debt in a reasonable, responsible, and fair manner. i applaud mark warner and saxby chambliss, kent conrad, tom coburn, mike crapo and dick durbin on this bipartisan effort. by leaving out political agendas, these senators -- these statesmen -- produce a plan to slash deficits by $3.7 trillion
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over ten years. this plan follows the blueprint put forth by the fiscal commission following a year's worth of study and collaboration. in addition to an immediate $500 billion down payment, the plan puts everything on the table. it balances the need to reduce spending, adjust entitlement programs, and reforms our tax code. while i may not agree with every provision, i do like that it calls on every citizen to contribute to debt reduction. it allows us to achieve measurable results without jeopardizing safety net programs meant to protect the most vulnerable among us. furthermore, it avoids gimmicks such as constitutional amendments or cut, cap, and balance, which offer a nice sound bite but they fall short. i'm hopeful a gang of 60 will embrace this plan and that we can include it as part of the final debt ceiling solution.
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congress has created this cliffhanger moment. americans and leaders all over the world are now watching. the question for congress remains: will we rise to the occasion or will we fail? mr. president, i yield the floor. and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: nator: mr. presiden?
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the presiding officer: the senator from kansas. a senator: i ask the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. a senator: mr. president, thank you very much. i'm disappointed by the outcome of the vote here today in which a proposal that i believe was -- had the most merit for moving us in the right direction in regard to raising the debt ceiling and
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moving us toward the direction of a balanced budget failed here in the senate. mr. moran: i've spoken this week several times about the importance of cut, cap and balance and it -- it is the plan that has passed the house of representatives, was the path that we could take here and i've encouraged my colleagues throughout the week to come together and try to make this cut, cap and balance plan the framework by which we resolve this issue of the impending necessity of raising the debt ceiling. and i've said in every -- on every occasion that it would be irresponsible not to raise the debt ceiling. i don't know exactly what the consequences and at what point in time those consequences occur but i do know that it would be damaging to the economy. but i also believe that it would be equally if not more irresponsible to simply raise the debt ceiling without taking the necessary steps to put our country on the right path toward a balanced budget in the future. and i thought cut, cap and
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balance really did present that opportunity in which we cut spending back to previous years' levels, we cap that spending so that it's not more than a certain percentage of our gross national product, our country's economy, and, finally, that we pass a balanced budget amendme amendment, something i've supported since i came to congress each and every year, believe that we don't have the necessary discipline and coura courage, the necessity that we need to -- to make the decisions that put us on the path toward balancing the budget. and, of course, if we approved a balanced budget amendment in the house and senate, it still would be considered by the american people through the state legislature. so i speak this morning with disappointment that on a straight party-line vote this issue, this legislation was tabled. but i've also said throughout my conversations about the debt ceiling and about getting our country back on the right path that i -- i believe there's a fourth component to cut, cap and balance, and in my view that fourth component is grow.
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cut, cap, balance, grow the economy. and certainly in my view, the federal government doesn't create jobs but we have millions of americans across our country who are looking for work, looking for better work, looking for full-time work and we have way too many people who are discouraged, who have looked for a long time with no success. and in my view, the message, the primary message of the november elections of last year was this insistence that congress get it right in order to help americans find employment. and it's important. these two things are related in regard to how our country progresses. as i've indicated, the last time our budget was balanced was at the end of president clinton's term in office and, yes, there was some spending restraint, there was an inability of republicans and democrats to come together and create new programs and big government spending, but what really was happening, what the primary reason for a balanced budget back in those days was a growing
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economy. and so if we want to balance our budget, i'm one who says, yes, we need more revenue but that revenue comes not from tax increases but from a growing economy that puts people to work and generates the revenue that then flows to the federal treasury to pay down our debt. it's actually the most enjoyable aspect of how we could balance the budget and the side benefits beyond an improved fiscal house here in washington, d.c., is that americans would have jobs. we help create an environment in which they can put food on their family's tables, in which they can save for their kids' education and have the opportunity to save for their own retirement. so today i once again in the absence of an agreement between the white house and the house and senate, as has been indicated, there are ongoing negotiations about this issue of the debt ceiling but we ought to be looking also at that opportunity to grow the economy,
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put people work creating those opportunities and raising the revenue necessary to fund, in my view, a much smaller government. so we ought to be promoting a tax code that is fair, that is efficiently collected, is not overly bureaucratic, that is certain. we need a regulatory environment in which every business person is not fearful of adding employees or investing in plant and equipment because they don't know what next government regulation is going to come their way. spent much time this year as a member of the senate banking committee in which we've heard from bankers across the country, particularly our community ban banks, in which the uncertainty of what next happens under dodd-frank determines whether or not there is -- it's desirable to make a loan, what next is the examiner going to say and what next are the regulations going to be. and in the absence of access to credit, our -- our small businessmen and women in kansas, our farmers and ranchers, the
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ability to borrow money has a significant role to play in whether or not we have a growing economy that puts people to wo work. so we certainly need to have that fair and certain tax code. we certainly need to make certain that the regulatory environment is totally different than what it is today, and we need to make certain that there is no doubt about the ability due to regulations that a bank can make a loan to a creditworthy borrower. we also desperately need a policy in place that encourages domestic production of oil and gas that helps us reduce the cost of energy. i don't know how we have a booming economy if energy prices are going to continue to escalate at the rates that they are, and the more that that cost of gasoline reduces the spending power of american families, the less likely we're going to have any opportunity to -- to see a growing economy. certainly we have challenges in our housing market that need attention and it's difficult for
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many of us to make decisions about spending more money if we don't have the sense of security that comes from knowing there is value in our home. and, finally, i want to point out and the one i -- i just want to focus on a moment because of what appears to be coming from the obama administration in regard to trade is an indication that once again the ability for congress to consider the trade agreements with colombia, panama, and south korea is being delayed. much of our country's economy and certainly in my home state of kansas is dependent, many, many people by the millions work in the united states because the things we manufacture, the agriculture commodities that we grow are exported abroad, and the last three trade agreements that have been negotiated have been pending now for a very long time and the consequences of those trade agreements are significant. and i certainly know this as a kansan, in which we manufacture airplanes and general aviation, we grow lots of agriculture
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commodities, wheat, cattle, co corn, much of that is exported abroad and these countries present opportunities for us to grow our economy and put more people to work. the south korea free trade agreement, for example, if approved is estimated to create 70,000 new jobs. the -- it is estimated that it is an increase in u.s. exports of $9.7 billion and our gross domestic product would increase by over $10 billion, and yet the framework by which we can begin to increase our exports to those three countries is once again stalled and the white house announced this week that those trade agreements will not be presented to congress before the august recess. and in my view, that is a terrible mistake and it's particularly a problem because as we speak, other countries are assuming the role of exporting to those countries, assuming the role that the united states has historically played and we're being left out in the market.
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a free trade agreement with south korea was just recently -- just recently took effect between south korea and the european union and colombia and canada have an agreement that comes into force on august the 15th. the more time that we delay in approving the opportunity for americans to export to those countries, the more likely it is that the markets are going to be taken by exporters from other countries. and so while we continue to work to see that an agreement is reached in regard to this issue of the debt ceiling, let us not take any steps back in regard to this issue of growing the economy. let's continue to work in regard to that tox code, in regard to that regulatory environment that is so -- that so hinders the ability of a business to expand, an energy policy that returns those jobs back home and creates greater stability in the price and cost of energy and we also
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need to make certain we have access today, but finally today let me again ask the administration to reconsider their position and let's put these trade opportunities, the ability to increase exports back on the table so that congress can adequately address the terms of those agreements and get them in place before we lose more market opportunity around the globe. and this is not about taking care of big business. this is about making certain that business has the opportunity to sell goods and agriculture commodities to those countries so that in the -- in the process of their business growing, they put more and more kansans and americans to work. so, mr. president, we have our agenda and it's an important one for america. yes, fiscal sanity has to return but let's not forget the fourth component of cut, cap, balance and grow the economy. if we do these things, america will be a better place today but more importantly, every american
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child will have the opportunity to pursue the american dream. mr. president, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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senator from illinois. mr. kirk: i ask to vitiate the quorum call and speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. kirk: mr. president, as we continue our debate on the economic future of the united states, i would like to announce july's silver fleece award winner. this month's most wasteful spending project is another example of egregious federal
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spending habits of this government and demonstrates why we should have enacted the cut, cap and balance act. the silver fleece award for the month of july goes to a a $64 million stimulus award to provide broadband service to gallatin county, montana. according to an analysis conducted by navigant consulting, 93% of households in the project's proposed service area were already served by five or more broadband providers. the fact that tens of millions of taxpayer dollars were spent to subsidize broadband service in an area with already strong private sector representation is reprehensible. perhaps even more staggering, though, is the taxpayer cost of services per unserved household. according to the program's own
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definition of unserved household , the project cost taxpayers more than $340,000 per unserved household. however, many of these so-called unserved households have access to 3-g wireless broadband already. not only are 3-g services and speeds approaching or even meeting administration broadband standards, but 3-g will soon be replaced by 4-g broadband, which far exceeds current standards. subtracting the number of homes that had existing 3-g wireless leaves only seven households in gallatin county that were unserved by broadband. the cost of the u.s. taxpayer for this program then jumps to an astounding $7,112,422 per household to provide broadband service to the truly unserved
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population. i wish i could say that this project was an exception, but i cannot. the funding was provided through the stimuluses -- stimulus eas eas $3.5 billion world utility service broadband initiative program. on average, this program cost the taxpayer over $1,000 per household. in projects analyzed by the navigant study, 85% of the households already had access to broadband. unfortunately, rural broadband subsidization has been long mismanaged by the rural utility service. a 2009 inspector general report found that just 2% of federal broadband buildout funds provided between 2005-2008 went toward unserved communities. the same inspector general report found that funds were also going to areas that weren't
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rural at all. in fact, 148 of the communities provided with subsidized broadband between 2005-2008 were within 30 miles of cities, and at least 200,000 inhabitants. we continue to see this occur in the stimulus funding, where in my home state, cook county, the home of chicago with a population of 2.79 million and suburban will county received funds. ensuring connectivity in rural america is a worthy endeavor that would bring economic development to small communities around the country, but as we face budget shortfalls and crippling debt, we cannot afford to subsidize duplicative broadband service in urban and suburban communities. now, during the stimulus debate, when the bill was considered by the full appropriations committee, i raised concerns with the then-chair of the
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agriculture subcommittee, rosa delauro, on this. i said it was a waste of money. i said we should probably redirect the funds. i said that we should not support this legislation. i was defeated in the house of representatives and the stimulus bill was put forward. i even wrote a memo highlighting the waste of this rural broadband initiative. unfortunately, now seeing, especially in gallatin county where we have now subsidized each recipient of unserved broadband services at a cost of of $7,112,422 per person, we have seen that the remarks that i made in opposition to this funding when i was a member of the house dramatically understated the waste to the u.s. taxpayer. as we face a future of deficits and debt, we need to highlight the waste of the rural broadband program, which is why the july silver fleece award went to this
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program in gallatin county, montana. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: if the senator will withhold his request. the senator from montana. mr. tester: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, the folks back in montana and across this country as they watch the news and newspapers are shaking their heads. i don't blame them, shaking my head, too. because we just wasted two precious days debating a plan that wipes out medicare and social security, a plan that guts veteran benefits. yes, that's exactly what the plan just did. that's exactly why i opposed it. it's incredible to me that some folks have no problem turning their backs on america's seniors and america's veterans while at the same time preserving tax loopholes that benefit millionaires, big oil and wall
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street, corporations that ship our jobs overseas. that, mr. president, is why montana and folks across this country are shaking their heads. they don't think much of what's going on in washington, d.c., these days. my friends in the house know full well that this bill is no friend of the seniors and is no friend of the veterans. they knew full well it would force deep cuts on medicare and social security. they know this all so very well. so you know what they did? what do career politicians do when they want people to believe that their plan to cut medicare somehow exempts medicare? they add language saying exempt medicare. that's what they did. montanans deserve better and americans deserve better. so let's look at the whole truth. let's first talk about the cuts that are in the cut, cap and balance plan. this plan lox in cuts proposed
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by the controversial house budget plan otherwise known as the ryan plan in the house, and it lox them in for a full decade. that means you're going to see more than $111 billion in cuts this year alone. that's 10%. it will be a 10% cut to veterans' health care or highway or water infrastructure or education. they won't tell us how they plan to make those cuts. maybe they will take a little less out of our veterans at the expense of cops and firefighters. maybe they will take a few less dollars out of ag research but then a few more kids out of head start. let's talk about the cap. the plan caps federal spending at 18% of gross domestic product, requiring even further spending cuts. 18% brings us to a level that this country hasn't seen since 1966, about the same time that medicare was created. even ronald reagan advocated for a higher rate than 18%. here's the kicker. the small print you won't hear
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from the people who already voted for this bill is that the annual interest on our debt and the very things that this bill claims to exempt, medicare, medicaid, social security, veterans' benefits, will cost more than what is allowed under the cap. that means there will be nothing left to spend on any other program, nothing. that includes military, our infrastructure, homeland security and just about everything else. so how is that going to work so that this bill protects social security and medicare? it won't unless you invent your own math. what are the lawmakers going to do? do they really intend to close down the pentagon? i doubt it. but that means they are going to have to go back and cut medicare and social security. under this bill, it's their only choice. the numbers simply don't add up. the fact is that we're wasting time even giving it daylight in
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the senate, and that's exactly why the folks back home are shaking their heads. they expect us to get the job done responsibly, using common sense, in a way that doesn't dismantle medicare, social security or hurt our veterans. i look forward to debating a bipartisan plan to responsibly cut the debt and cut spending, and there is one being worked on right now, but the senate just voted on this -- voting on this was not responsible. the senate rejected it and rightfully so. now we need to move to a bipartisan plan that comes out of the middle, not from the partisan extremes. mr. president, with that, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. kyl: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. kyl: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. kyl: and, mr. president, i'll speak as if in morning business unless we are in morning business. the presiding officer: we are in morning business. mr. kyl: thank you, mr. president. you know, occasionally, mr. president, political people say things that they probably wish they hadn't said because they're quite foolish and it's with great disappointment that i focus on something that our president recently said and i do so not out of disrespect for the president but because what was said is so fundamentally wrong that it deserves to be put out into the public for discussion and, frankly, to get some response from the president if he would like to do that. but according to "national journal," an acial by rebecca -- article by rebecca kaplan dated
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july 21, the president said this. he said, "i think" -- and i'm quoting now -- "i think what's absolutely true is that core commitments that we make to the most vulnerable have to be maintained. a lot of the spending cuts that we're making sure around areas like defense spending as opposed to food stamps." now, we're in a great debate about how we should figure out a way to end our deficit spending, to get our debt under control. we have to raise the debt ceiling here coming up in a few days and we've had a lot of discussion about the best way to do that. most people approach the problem by saying, what are the core functions of government, the most important things that are really critical to america and you build a budget from that point up. and then like every family does, you finally get to some things that are -- are really good to have if you can but sometimes
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you can't afford them, or at least you can't afford them at exactly the same way that you've been paying. maybe not going to the movie, maybe not going out to dinner, whatever. i think most people would believe that when we all take our oath of office to defend the country, probably the first obligation that the federal government has is to defend the people, provide for our national security. if we're not able to provide for our national security, there's not much point in trying to protect anything else. and that's why the defense of the united states has always been pretty well supported in a bipartisan way by people in both political parties and in times of peace and in times of war. that's want to say that there haven't -- that's not to say that there haven't been debates about defense spending and whether or not defense spending sometimes can be cut, but, rather, to at least acknowledge that if any function of the government is a core function, or as the
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president said, "core commitment" it surely ought to be providing for the defense of the american people. now, we've also decided over the years that there are ways in which we can help to take care of american citizens who have trouble meeting their own needs and we start with people who are very sick and infirmed or elderly and we have programs like social security or medica medicare, the medicaid program for those economically less fortunate. and over the years, we developed programs to provide other benefits to american citizens. we provide some housing benefits. we provide what's called food stamps. there's another name for it in the agriculture budget but, nutrition assistance, and it's known as food stamps. and for people who are having making ends meet, the government will actually provide an ability for them to buy what they need eat at -- at the grocery store.
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now, that's an important thing. america got along without food stamps for the first couple of centuries of its existence but certainly there were a lot of people that endured hardship, and when a country is wealthy enough to be able to afford to do things for its people, it's certainly an appropriate thing to do and that's certainly the category of food stamps. but i find it remarkable that the president would conflate the obligations of the government for national security and a program like the nutrition assistance program the way he has, to describe one as a core commitment of the country, food stamps, and to say the rest of it we can be talking about making cuts should be around areas like defense spending as opposed to food stamps. and i'm not trying to pick on food stamps here, but the president of the united states
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is the commander in chief. he among all americans is responsible for our national security, and for him to suggest that food stamps is a core mission of the government and that national security is less than that so if we need to make cuts, we would stick it from national defense, i just find remarkable. our -- are food stamps close to what is the core of the american people? as i said, we got along without food stamps for a long time. churches and families and others took care of folks. when the government was wealthy enough to be able to help folks with food stamps, we decideed to do it. we have all been supporters of programs that provide that kind of assistance. but when you have to begin trimming expenses -- and by the way, i'm not suggesting here that there is a proposal on the table to trim food stamps. what i'm saying is that what you don't do is say there is one
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thing we are going to protect above all else and that's food stamps and we can instead get our savings from the defense budget. we have already effectuated enormous savings from the defense budget over the last three years. i thought it might be useful just to quote a few things that are -- that our most recent secretary of defense said. he's retired now for the last three years. he acted as secretary of defense and now he has been out of that job for the last couple of weeks, but at the end of his term as secretary of defense, he gave several speeches, and in each one of these he stressed the commitment of the united states not only to the security of the american people but to peace around the world. and reminded us that there is evil in the world, there are always those who would do us harm, and unless there is somebody in the world like the united states willing to stand up to these despots, these
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troublemakers, we're likely to end up with trouble on our own shores sooner or later. and he cautioned, therefore, against further reductions in defense spending, as the president has just said. secretary gates said on several occasions, and i'm quoting, that defense had already cut as much as was advisable. and so the question is why should we just automatically be assuming that it's easy to cut another $400 billion out of defense, for example, that our key mission here is to protect the core commitments as the president put it like food stamps. i'm just going to select a few things that secretary gates said and then i will put a couple pieces in the record, mr. president. on may 24, secretary gates made some remarks to the american enterprise institute. here is just a sampling of what he said. the current inventory -- he's talking about the inventory of military weapons in our arsenal.
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the current inventory is getting old and worn down from iraq and afghanistan. some equipment can be refurbished with life extension programs, but there is no getting around the fact that others must be replaced. when it comes to our military modernization accounts, he said the proverbial low-lying or low-hanging fruit, those weapons and other programs considered most questionable have not only been plucked, they have been stomped on and crushed. what remains are much-needed capabilities relating to our air superiority, our mobility, long-range strike, nuclear deterrents, maritime access, space and cyberwarfare, ground forces, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance that our nation's civilian and military leadership deemed absolutely critical. and he gave examples of a new tanker. he noted the ones we have are twice as old as many of the
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pilots who are flying them. a new generation strike fighter, the f-35. he said we have got to build more ships. the size of the navy has sunk to the lowest number since prior to world war ii. the army and marines, doing the bulk of our fighting on the ground. their combat vehicles and helicopters are worn down after a decade of war. he points out that at some point we have got to replace our aging ballistic missile submarines. he calls that a program that illustrates the modernization dilemmas we face. he said this again at a.e.i. so as we move forward, unless our country's political leadership envisions a dramatically diminished global security role for the united states, it is vitally important to protect the military modernization accounts in absolute terms and as a share of the defense budget. let me skip to some remarks that secretary gates made in some
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commencement addresses. he spoke -- mr. president, let me just quote one other at this a.e.i. speech and then i'm going to move to a commencement address. one thing secretary gates noted is that when we decided we would like to reduce defense spending, we have to remember that our potential enemies always have a vote. we can assume that certain things are of a low probability to happen around the globe, but we can't always be sure that some despot isn't going to try to create trouble somewhere, and here's how he concluded this speech to a.e.i. he said if we're going to reduce the resources and the size of the u.s. military, people need to make conscious choices about what the implications are for the security of the country as well as for the variety of military operations we have around the world if lower priority missions are scaled back or eliminated. they need to understand what it could mean for a smaller pool of troops and their families if
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america is forced into a protracted land war again, yes, the kind no defense secretary should recommend any time soon but one we may not be able to avoid. to shirk this discussion of risks and consequences and the hard decisions that it must follow, i would regard as managerial cowardice. and he said in closing, while i have spent a good deal of time on programmatic particulars, the tough choices ahead are really about the kind of role the american people, accustomed to unquestioned military dominance for the past two decades, want their country to play in the world. that's a serious and sobering reminder by the secretary of defense, that the american people expect from the leaders of the country that when we need our military, it's there, it's capable, that we're being fair with the people that we have put into harm's way, we have given them the very best training and equipment possible. and by the way, my colleague
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john mccain from arizona has visited iran -- excuse me, has visited iraq, afghanistan, other places where our military men and women are fighting for many years, and one of the things that strikes me most about his observations always when he returns is the quality of our fighting force, the quality of their equipment and their training. they are clearly the best military force ever fielded. we expect that. we have come to expect it, but it doesn't happen automatically. it requires stewardship, and we here in the congress as well as the president are stewards of our national security and all of those who provide it. that is a lesson we can't forget, even in the context of a deficit and debt debate where we're trying desperately to find more ways we can achieve savings. when secretary gates spoke to the notre dame graduates on may 22, here are just a few of the things he said.
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"the lessons of history tell us we must not diminish our ability or our determination to deal with the threats and the challenges on the horizon because ultimately they will need to be confronted. if history and religion teach us anything, it is that there will always be evil in the world, people bent on atbretion, oppression, satisfying their greed for wealth and power in territory who are determined to impose an ideology based on the sub juggation of others and the denial of liberty to men and women." he said, "make no mistake, the ultimate guarantee against the success of aggressors, dictators and terrorists in the 21st century, as in the 20th, is hard power. the size, strength and global reach of the united states military." he also discussed what we're doing around the world and said, and i quote again, "all of these things happen mostly out of sight and out of mind to the average american and thus are
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taken for granted, but they all depend on a properly armed, trained and funded american military which cannot be taken for granted." he concluded those remarks by saying, and i quote -- "throughout this process, we should keep in mind historian donald kagan's observation that the preservation of peace depends upon those states seeking that goal having both the prepond rant power and the will to accept the burdens and responsibilities required to achieve it, and we must not forget what winston churchill once said, that -- quote -- the price of greatness is responsibility and the people of the united states cannot escape world responsibility." end of quote. another way of saying this was one of ronald reagan's famous ization, that the best i would to preserve peace was to have strength, peace through strength. that when you became weaker, you tempted the despots around the world to see whether or not they
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could gain some territory or some advantage to make trouble. then you're playing catchup, having to fight a problem that could have been avoided, perhaps, if that despot knew that you had the strength and will to defeat them if he had made any kind of aggressive move. having the ability to deter is at least as important as the ability to win if the fight occurs because you can void a lot of trouble, expense, casualties and problems if you deter aggression in the first place. at north dakota state university, another commencement address on may 14, secretary gates said this. he said -- "while i don't foresee a repeat of the cold war days when we faced off against another military superpower, i believe there is a growing competition under way for global
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leadership and influence." end of quote. and it was part of the same message that he had spoken of earlier about the importance to be prepared and why we should not just look to the defense budget for savings, that we had to keep our priorities in mind, and one of those priorities was our role and responsibility in the united states -- around the world, confirming, again, what he said, and i will just quote it. "if the political leadership of this country decides that it must reduce the investment in defense by hundreds of billions of dollars, then i don't think we can afford to have anything that's off the table." and, mr. president, it would seem to me that would include something like food stamps. again, what secretary gates said was that, and i'm quoting, "defense had already cut as much as was advisable." all right. i will get back to my original
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point. maybe the -- maybe i'm making too much of a casual observation of the president here, but when the president of the united states describes a core commitment as food stamps and says that instead we should be making -- that the cuts we are making should be around areas like defense spending, it tells me that the president has his priorities turned around, that they're wrong. his first responsibility is to the american people as commander in chief, and our first responsibility in the congress is exactly the same, for the security of our country. now, we're not going to be a strong country if we're bankrupt, and one of the key components to a strong defense is a strong economy so that we can generate the wealth that we need to produce the kind of military equipment and to field
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the kind of forces we need to protect our interests, and that's why we're focusing so much on the deficit, on spending and the like. but when we talk about areas that need to be cut, let's remember what the former secretary of defense said. defense has been cut enough already, and if we're going to keep our commitments around the world, we have to prioritize our spending. i submit that putting food stamps on a higher level of commitment than the national security of the united states is to grossly misplace our priorities, and i would hope that the president and others within the house and the senate in getting about the serious business of finding where we can make cuts -- and we surely have to do that -- will help to prioritize those things that are absolutely critical and